A huge fleet of 40 IMOCAs headed out of Le Havre at the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre in November 2023. Photo: Jean-Marie Liot/Alea

IMOCA 60’s are best known to the international sailing audience as the boats on which intrepid solo sailors compete in the famous Vendée Globe round the world race.

Though that might be the most famous race for the IMOCA 60 fleet, they take part in a wide variety of offshore short handed offshore races including: The Transat Jacques Vabre, Route du Rhum, the Rolex Fastnet Race, and more recently the fully crewed The Ocean Race.

These are just a few of the events the boats race in, but there are many more, a good number of which make up the IMOCA Globe Series.

What does IMOCA stand for?

The International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA) manages the IMOCA 60 class.

The open design of IMOCA monohulls sets parameters for sailors and designers to innovate in this development class, while IMOCA defined rules are intended to limit costs, ensure safety, and create some degree of sporting equity for older designs of the yachts.

The basic parameters are that all IMOCA 60s must be between 59 and 60 feet (18m) hull length (66ft/20.12m LOA) with a maximum draught of 4.5 metres (15ft.)

Other parameters include a maximum mast height of 29m, and a wing mast design. The keel of new designs must be from a single design (although it is canting). There can be no more than 5 hull appendages, including 2 rudders, 1 keel and 2 foils. The rudders and keel must be in a high-visibility colour for safety.

Who builds IMOCA 60s?

As a development class there is no single designated builder for the IMOCA 60 class, and in theory any combination of designer and builder can build one.

However, as a highly competitive racing class, designers and builders responsible for the fastest boats tend to be those commissioned by the top teams for any new IMOCA 60 they want to build.

With design and build costs running into the millions, selecting a proven builder and designer to provide you with a competitive boat is key.

But picking a promising up-and-coming designer and builder can provide you a competitive edge, though is a riskier option.

The last three Vendée Globes have been won in VPLP / Verdier designs all of which have been built at CDK Technologies, but teams are increasingly looking further afield in order to try to secure a competitive edge.

How fast can an IMOCA 60 go?

As a development class the IMOCA 60 fleet are always improving performance and recently records have been falling again. The latest boats can easily reach top speeds of 35 knots in the right conditions.

In 2013, the IMOCA class introduced hydrofoils adding significant performance to the offshore racers, which is one key contributor to these impressive speeds.

Initially these foils only added performance in a very specific wind range – though this still meant they would be faster in normal conditions racing around the world, mostly downwind.

Now, several generations of boat later, foils are pretty widely seen as a ‘must have’ to be competitive.

The current fastest Vendée Globe time is held by Armel Le Cléac’h who finished the lap of the planet in 2016 in just 74 days, 3 hours, and 36 minutes.

More recently in The Ocean Race, Team Malizia set a 24 hour record of a jaw-dropping 640 nautical miles. The fastest 24 hour run of any monohull.

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